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Hagiography on Milley & Biden, But Not Zelensky
We need hagiography on hagiography. Sans hagiography, Zelensky wanted a chance to address the national legislature and he's getting it -- in Ottawa, not in Washington.
CROSS-POSTED TO MY POLITICAL BLOG, THE MODERATE DEMOCRAT.
“Hagiography” is the political buzzword of the month.
My trusty online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “hagiography” as “idealizing or idolizing biography,” essentially treating the biographical subject as a saint.
“Hagiography” is used so often these days! If someone would just research and publish a report on the origins, increasing common usage, and especially the saintly qualities of hagiography, we’d have the hagiography on hagiography.
The Atlantic magazine is pumping out hagiography these days. Still, it’s fun to read:
Atlantic Editor Jeffrey Goldberg yesterday published a profile of Amy General Mark A. Milley, who at the end of the month completes his term as the twentieth chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since the post was established during the Truman Administration. Illustrated with gorgeous photos by Ashley Gilbertson.
Atlantic Staff Writer (and former New Republic Editor) Franklin Foer just published a revealing book on the first two years of the Biden Administration called The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future. I just finished the book a half-hour ago.
You want to know who, surprisingly, is not the subject of hagiography in Foer’s book?
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, that’s who.
Zelensky, who had a rough time in Washington yesterday, is taken down more than a peg or two in Foer’s account. Yesterday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy would not publicly greet Zelensky at the Capitol, though the two men met in private.
McCarthy also would not agree to a joint congressional session to afford Zelensky the opportunity to speak to the representatives and senators.
I will compose a post on my political blog, The Moderate Democrat, about President Biden as profiled by Foer in the near future.
Greenberg’s piece turns General Milley, the one-time high school and Princeton hockey player from Winchester, Mass., into a hero who guarded the Constitution and democracy from being decimated by President Trump. As Greenberg writes it.
Foer’s book makes Zelensky into an ungrateful, headstrong, and insensitive arrived-too-soon leader of Ukraine who nonetheless came to be the toast of the world.
Despite the hagiography, the Greenberg article and Foer book are good reads.
For his part., Greenberg tells a wonderful story about accompanying Milley this past March on a tour of the Air Force’s ICBM missile system scattered across North Dakota and visit Strategic Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base south of Omaha, Nebraska.
In addition to housing the 91st Missile Wing, Minot [North Dakota] is home to the Air Force’s 5th Bomb Wing, and I watched Milley spend the morning inspecting a fleet of B‑52 bombers. Milley enjoys meeting the rank and file, and he quizzed air crews — who appeared a little unnerved at being interrogated with such exuberance by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs — about their roles, needs, and responsibilities. We then flew by helicopter to a distant launch-control facility, to visit the missile officers in charge of the Minuteman IIIs. The underground bunker is staffed continuously by two launch officers, who are responsible for a flight of 10 missiles, each secured in hardened underground silos. The two officers seated at the facility’s console described to Milley their launch procedures.
The individual silos, connected to the launch-control facility by buried cable, are surrounded by chain-link fences. They are placed at some distance from one another, an arrangement that would force Russia or China to expend a large number of their own missiles to preemptively destroy America’s. The silos are also protected by electronic surveillance, and by helicopter and ground patrols. The Hueys carrying us to one of the silos landed well outside the fence, in a farmer’s field. Accompanying Milley was Admiral Charles Richard, who was then the commander of Strategic Command, or Stratcom. Stratcom is in charge of America’s nuclear force; the commander is the person who would receive orders from the president to launch nuclear weapons — by air, sea, or land — at an adversary.
It was windy and cold at the silo. Air Force officers showed us the 110-ton blast door, and then we walked to an open hatch. Richard mounted a rickety metal ladder leading down into the silo and disappeared from view. Then Milley began his descent. “Just don’t touch anything,” an Air Force noncommissioned officer said. “Sir.”
Then it was my turn. “No smoking down there,” the NCO said, helpfully. The ladder dropped 60 feet into a twilight haze, ending at a catwalk that ringed the missile itself. The Minuteman III weighs about 80,000 pounds and is about 60 feet tall. The catwalk surrounded the top of the missile, eye level with its conical warhead. Milley and I stood next to each other, staring silently at the bomb. The warhead of the typical Minuteman III has at least 20 times the explosive power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. We were close enough to touch it, and I, at least, was tempted.
Milley broke the silence. “You ever see one of these before?”
“No,” I answered.
“Me neither,” Milley said.
I couldn’t mask my surprise.
“I’m an infantryman,” he said, smiling. “We don’t have these in the infantry.”
He continued, “I’m testifying in front of Congress on nuclear posture, and I think it’s important to see these things for myself.”